coffee beans in a mug
Photo by Refracted Moments™
I have believed for a long time that caffeine is worse for you than alcohol or tobacco. It is just as addictive, and it is not a controlled substance. We seem to force feed it to our kids. Many people only get through college by using it to stay awake studying. If you stop consuming it, you will go through withdrawal symptoms. Because it is not as strictly regulated as alcohol and tobacco, and it can take a similar toll on your body when used in excess, I classify it as worse than either. I eliminated caffeine from my diet in the late 90s and have been much happier for it.

When I was growing up, I used to get cluster migraine headaches. Many of the drugs to combat a migraine headache contain some form of caffeine, and the only time I ever have caffeine these days is if I feel a migraine coming on and take one of those drugs. While caffeine was a principal ingredient in the fight against the migraines, I also discovered that it was a principal cause for them as well. Stress and caffeine can both be migraine inducing; put them together and I had one guaranteed. As a senior in high school, I went blind for two weeks when I had a long series of strung together migraines that caused varying degrees of hallucinations.

While I took many steps and tried many ways to get my migraine headaches under control, I think that eliminating caffeine from my diet had the greatest effect. I had the poison out of my system, which meant that my brain did not need to go into hyper drive quite as often. On top of that, my stress levels decreased as well because I was sleeping much better and I did not have a craving for a soda every hour on the hour. I have had no trouble maintaining a healthy weight for my entire adult life, due in part to not having to give in to cravings for soda.

Eliminating caffeine from my diet was not the be-all and end-all solution to all of my problems. It was only a piece of the puzzle. I just feel that nothing but good has happened as a result of my dietary change, and I do think that it was the largest part of getting my migraine problem under control. Rather than clusters of 6-30 migraines in a few month span a few times per year, I now get maybe one or two migraines every year. When I do get migraines now, they are far less severe than they used to be and rarely require me to halt everything in my life for a day or two. In college, I avoided the problem of staying awake to study by going to bed early and getting sleep rather than cramming for a test.

When I talk about the matter with folk that I know, my recommendation is always to try eliminating it from their diet for 30 days. Commit to having no caffeine for 30 days, and if you do not feel that things have improved then go back to consuming it. By committing to 30 days, you will get past the withdrawal symptom hump and will start to notice the benefits of not having it in your system constantly. You will also have kept up the habit of not consuming caffeine for long enough to keep it going if you choose to do so. Once you make 30 days, the rest is easy. Having that hard 30 day set of time, you can keep telling yourself only 2 more weeks, only 10 more days, and finally, you can tell yourself you don’t need it anymore.